How do I add interest to my kitchen? 7 design experts reveal their top tips

Adding character to a kitchen starts with the basics and ends with the details. Here's how you can add interest to your space

Three kitchens with character and interest
(Image credit: Tom Howley / Cortney Bishop / Future/Penny Wincer)

While a new kitchen is a wonderful thing to behold, with smooth, clean surfaces, gleaming tiles and backsplashes, it can sometimes feel like something is missing. As beautiful as it may be, if your new kitchen is lacking character, it can feel soulless. 

So, how do you add character and interest to your kitchen when you've started from scratch? Here, leading kitchen design experts bring their kitchen ideas to the table.

How do I add interest to my kitchen?

If you are remodeling a kitchen and following the latest kitchen trends, you'll know that this is no longer a room that's built solely for functionality with little personality or soul. Instead, it's much more likely that your aim will be to decorate it just like you would your living room. In which case, you'll need to combine your best kitchen cabinet ideas with all the kitchen styling tips you can muster. Here's how kitchen experts answer the question: How can I add interest to my kitchen?

1. Choose Shaker-style cabinets for a look that never dates

Dark cabinets, marble countertop, wooden shelves


(Image credit: Tom Howley )

Annie Tullett, kitchen designer at Tom Howley (opens in new tab), is adamant that classic Shaker kitchen ideas are not only still relevant but guaranteed to add character to a kitchen.

‘Shaker kitchens have a timeless simplicity and elegance, which evolved from the pared-back, practical lifestyle of 18th Century Shaker societies. The Shakers created the blueprint for the family kitchen through social design – this can be seen in their large trestle table islands and benches, and they blurred the lines between dining and kitchen space. 

'Shaker kitchens have longevity to them because they are grounded in the architecture of the Georgian era, a style which has bled into Victorian, Edwardian and now modern architecture. In summary, Shaker isn’t a trend; it is everlasting.’

2. Add texture and drama with dark, natural materials

White base cabinets, marble countertop, splashback and window frame


(Image credit: Caesarstone)

The right textures and materials in dark colors can truly transform a kitchen from dull to divine, whether kitchen countertop ideas or cabinetry, according to Caesarstone (opens in new tab)’s head of design Mor Krisher. He explains: 'Contrary to what people often think, black or dark kitchens aren’t always sombre or austere. 

'Dark colors can be bold and dramatic or warm and cosseting. They have within them so many different nuances, tones and tactility that give them different character. They can be basic or sophisticated, daring or elegant, industrial or classic, traditional or modern. 

'Starting a kitchen design with a black countertop can lead you down a very exciting route as you start to pair it with different door colors, appliances, and accessories and if you are already shying away from all white spaces, it’s a great way to go.'

3. Brighten with backsplash tiles

Green tile backsplash, white cabinets


(Image credit: Craven Dunnill Jackfield)

Kitchen wall tile ideas are a great way to add eye-catching texture and color and therefore interest to a kitchen in a way that flat or plain materials and finishes don't.

'Using tiles as a kitchen backsplash is an exquisite way of displaying and accentuating their pattern, texture, and glaze. A beautiful way to bring a burst of color into a room, highly reflective gloss tiles are also a great way to create a sense of space and openness,' says Diane Hyde of Craven Dunnill Jackfield (opens in new tab).

4. Install statement lighting

Green draws, white hanging lights


(Image credit: lights&lamps)

Imaginative kitchen lighting ideas that can be both practical and pretty are key to adding interest to a kitchen. 

‘Kitchens obviously need to work hard and so does the lighting. Recessed spotlights or undercabinet lighting is a common solution, but also consider the space when it’s not being functional. 

'Family and friends often congregate around an island so consider low level or pendant lighting here. Don’t be afraid to use "living room" lighting in the kitchen: a floor lamp in a corner or a table lamp at the end of a countertop,’ says Niki Wright, co-founder of lighting design studio lights & lamps (opens in new tab).

5. Add more than one timber to the scheme

Wooden kitchen by Cortney Bishop


(Image credit: Cortney Bishop)

'Introducing timber to a room, whether through wood kitchen flooring or wood kitchen cabinet ideas is a great way to add interest to a space,' says Jen Ebert, Deputy Editor (Digital), Homes & Gardens. 'However, you can dial up the character further by introducing two different timber types rather than one, which can make the room's finish look a little flat. 

'In the kitchen above by interior designer Cortney Bishop (opens in new tab), you can see how introducing timber is much like creating a color scheme, with one taking precedence, and the others acting as accents.'

6. Add interest to a kitchen with layering

converted coach house kitchen diner

(Image credit: Future / Penny Wincer)

'Layering in interior design takes many forms, all of which are really useful for adding interest to a kitchen,' says Sarah Spiteri, Editorial Director, Homes & Gardens. 'This can be with kitchen flooring, with kitchen rugs layered over a handsome material beneath; with myriad kitchen lighting treatments, which can create pools of layered light around the room; with open kitchen shelving on which your most beautiful china and cookware can be displayed; with kitchen art ideas; and with kitchen curtain ideas, which can add pattern, color and coziness, plus tie the entire scheme together.'

7. Add an unexpected sculptural lighting design

Cream kitchen, silver taps


(Image credit: Maison Maison)

Suzanne Duin, founder of Maison Maison (opens in new tab) suggests one should ‘opt for a statement light design, something quirky, unexpected and colorful, that will act as the focal point of the room. 

'If this seems daunting draw on the existing features of the kitchen design. For example, in a traditional kitchen an oversized rattan pendant will add a sense of reassuring, warm tactility. A statement lamp on a kitchen island or back countertop is equally impactful. The cozy yet directional diffused glow cast across a kitchen work surface will instantly soften the kitchen making it feel less industrial.’

How do you add personality to a white kitchen?

White kitchen ideas are enduringly popular but all-white, and particularly contemporary all-white, can look very one dimensional. You can add personality to a white kitchen by choosing really interesting materials for your countertops, backsplashes and/or flooring. Then, add stand-out light fittings and choose furniture, whether bar stools or dining chairs, with a patterned fabric. You can tie in the colors of the backsplash and countertops to this, and choose a window treatment that complements all. Layering is important in a white kitchen, as is using more than one shade of white if it is going across cabinetry, walls and ceiling.

Lucy Searle
Global Editor in Chief

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.